Realizing the bottom-line benefits of optimized wellbeing demands that the challenge be approached with the same rigour and discipline as any other strategic investment. So, as promised, this week we will explore what it takes to create a workplace wellbeing strategy that delivers impact and returns that can be measured.
Let’s begin with clarifying what we mean by a business strategy by paraphrasing from HBR and IMD:
A strategy creates value for the organization and its stakeholders by enabling them to achieve their vision, objectives, and goals. It creates a competitive advantage and provides clarity for the different departments within a business, ensuring that they are working to support the overall direction of the organization.
Now let’s look more closely at the definition of a wellbeing strategy. I like to use a mash-up of Deloitte, WHO, and Corporate Wellness Magazine:
A corporate wellbeing strategy refers to a set of policies, practices, and interventions that an organization implements to foster the wellbeing of its workforce by creating a workplace culture that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of its employees. It is a comprehensive and deliberate plan to improve the overall health, happiness, and productivity of employees. It is aligned with the organization’s goals and values.
Here I have highlighted some of the most important elements regarding the creation of strategies in the business environment and these will be drawn out throughout the strategy development process outlined in this article and in next week’s lesson 2 article as well.
The importance of culture
Before we begin, I wish to point out the importance of culture in this strategy. In this instance, culture will absolutely eat your strategy for breakfast if it isn’t appropriately accounted for, and can do so in the most destructive of ways.
Social Proximity Effect: The habits of the people we spend a lot of time with, are very likely to become our (good or bad) habits too.
Social proximity effect in a workplace wellbeing strategy is essential, because when used to our advantage it can accelerate and increase the positive impact of our efforts and investment. However, it also has the power to completely undermine and derail our strategy and its associated goals. Unfortunately, we see the latter far more often than we should.
Developing a workplace wellbeing strategy
1. Where are we now?
Establishing our starting point
Put simply, if we are trying to move from point A to point B, we need to know where point A is. Without clarity on where we are now, how far we are from our intended destination, and what is at play that could prevent us getting there, it is impossible to prepare the most effective strategy that can utilize our available resources as efficiently as possible.
Subject to what data and insights you already have available, in this initial phase, you may need to conduct some research and investigation into the following areas:
- The current state of employee wellbeing.
- Current attitudes to and perceptions of wellbeing.
- Current causes of stress and languishing wellbeing.
- Any other related factors such as how well your DEI or engagement strategies are achieving their goals.
- The problems your wellbeing strategy needs to enable your organization to overcome.
- The current position of the performance metrics that will be used to assess progress. These might include, but are not limited to, employee engagement, employee satisfaction, employee net promoter score, absenteeism and presenteeism levels, productivity, voluntary staff turnover, average cost & time to hire new employees, ROIC, shareholder returns, sales figures, EBITDA, etc etc
It is recommended that you gather a variety of subjective (self-reported) and objective indicators, and that you use a robust measurement system that can be used repeatedly in the future for comparisons, and to clearly plot progress.
It is also recommended that you analyse this data across demographic, departmental, and location-specific levels so that you can identify any particular risk areas, and opportunities for big improvements.
Warning: Whist this may take some time and possibly some investment, this is the foundation of your strategy. Skipping this phase or doing a poor job will, without doubt, create delays and wasted resources down the line. It will also make it exceptionally difficult to achieve the objectives of the strategy in a cost-effective and timely manner, or prove that any progress is being made at all. This in turn drives disengagement.
If this is something you need assistance with, please get in touch about the WellWise Diagnostics System; a first of its kind platform designed specifically for this purpose.
2. Where do we want to go?
Defining the vision and mission of the strategy
All strategies begin with the declaration of the desired end-state. We often describe this as a vision and mission statement. You may choose to utilise the organization’s existing vision and mission, adapt them slightly, or develop a different one for your wellbeing strategy.
Warning: The latter is usually the simplest but is often the least effective unless it is made very clear how it aligns to the overall business goals and values. A separate approach can feel like it is working against the core business, and that can be perceived as both a disruption and a lower priority amongst employees.
Great vision statements are aspirational, ambitious, and they convey a sense of passion for the ideal future toward which the company is working. One of my favourites for clarity is from United by Blue;
“A world without waste”
The purpose of a mission statement is to explain what an organization sets out to do, who it wants to support, why it wants to support them, and how it aims to fulfil its objective(s). Sweetgreen do this well:
“Building healthier communities by connecting people to real food.”
3. Who do we want to be?
Defining our values and principles
Most organizations will already have a set of values. However, often we find that
- most employees cannot name them, thus,
- they aren’t being effectively integrated into the culture and decision-making processes, and
- they may no longer be fit to serve the organization in the changing business landscape.
It may also be the case, that upon review, they are not supportive of a wellbeing culture, and thus may present a risk that needs to be overcome. For example, a value about putting customers first, may not align with the organization’s new employee wellbeing mission and vision. As such, there is frequently the need to make changes to the values as wellbeing and other factors become a higher priority in an organization.
Once you’ve established what role the current values are playing in the organization, you can consider the approach to values needed for the wellbeing strategy. It is not recommended to create values specifically for your wellbeing strategy because this can be very confusing for employees. Instead, apply all or some of the values you already have, or make a proposal to update them as part of the wellbeing strategy.
Business principles are the foundational guidelines or rules that are beneficial for solving problems and making decisions within an organization. Principles are becoming more common, especially as part of rebranding and culture transformation projects.
Stipulating principles to govern your wellbeing strategy, and indeed your business, provides all employees with a clear set of boundaries and expectations that it is easy to identify. That makes rewarding those who apply the principles and correcting those who don’t, much simpler.
Examples of principles:
- Give before expecting
- Treat others how you wish to be treated
- Every idea could be THE idea
4. What do we need to achieve?
Our ability to meet our wellbeing vision and mission is determined by the clarity everyone in our organization has about their responsibilities and accountabilities for achieving this. As such, we need to get our goal-setting clear and agreed as part of our strategy.
I recommend the following cascading format and to use SMART goals throughout.
- Long-term objectives
- Annual goals